I was six, and my family was spending Easter weekend in southern Indiana with my father’s family. Sunday morning we were headed to Sunday School and church. Cousin Susie told me I would LOVE Sunday School — I wasn’t so sure – I was nervous going to a strange church.
But oh — I did! To this day I still remember two things: the absolute warmth of the teacher (she hugged me right away!) and the little plant we each got to pot and take home as our very own.
She told us to put them in the sun, water them, and watch! From this little plant would spring little branches, and more leaves, because it was ALIVE, just like Jesus.
I took my plant home, and each morning jumped out of bed to see what new growth was there, my heart filled with wonder. It grew and grew and grew!
When Jesus proclaims “I AM the true vine,” so “abide in me,” He was making the point that the only way we can be alive is if we are in Him and He in us. That’s the only way we can bear fruit, because an unattached branch will never be able to do it. You can hang things on a dead branch — but the branch has not produced them.
Tim Keller often contrasts morality with true Christianity. Morality is something you do yourself — hanging things on a dead branch.
You can be moral, and not connected to the vine. You can obey the rules and be quite self-righteous about it. There can even be a certain beauty and order to your life. Keller says you are like a snowflake: perfect, beautiful, symmetrical, and FREEZING. There is no true life there.
In contrast, Christianity is organic. Because you are rooted in One who is ALIVE, The True Vine, as you abide in Him and He in you, you will bear much fruit. If you don’t bear fruit, then you are dead, and you will be cut off and thrown into the fire.
What I see in this wonderful group, and I was particularly impressed last week, is how you are abiding, how you are responding to pruning, and how you are bearing fruit, fruit that will last. I loved seeing the excitement — as in Laura-dancer — of gazing on Jesus as THE GREAT I AM and being in awe. Beholding Him for who He truly is is abiding, is connecting to the vine, and that inevitably leads to fruit.
Real fruit has enemies — “little foxes” that spoil the vines. We’ll consider that.
Real fruit needs pruning — and it is our Father who tends the vine. All that He cuts is for good. But pruning is painful. (It’s the Stonecutter, or Vine Tender at work!)
To hearken back to Elizabeth’s story of learning to forgive — it was a revelation to her that true forgiveness always involves suffering. Someone has to pay the debt — it doesn’t seem fair that the perpetrator isn’t the one, but often it is the one wronged who must pay. It hurts to let someone off the hook who doesn’t deserve it. And yet that is what Christ did for us. When Elizabeth suffered in order to forgive, she was allowing God to prune, and oh — what beautiful fruit has come from that!
It always hurts to die to our idols — but then LIFE comes. There is never a death without a resurrection.
Last week was important — but oh, this week is too. It’s not as lengthy, because I so want you to keep up.
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. How is the Lord wanting to prune you? Are you yielding or fighting? Explain.
3. Last week several of you commented, after listening to the sermon, about how easy it is to slip from abiding to morality. Do you think your abiding has increased during Lent? If so, do you sense any more of the fruit of His Spirit?
4. Choose a Lenten discipline for the week — this study or something else.
Monday-Wednesday: Bible Study (John 15:1-17)
5. What statement does Jesus make in John 15:1 and what are the implications? (There are several.)
6. Read John 15:2-10
A. Which branches, according to verses 2 and 6, are thrown into the fire? What does this mean?
B. Which branches are pruned, according to verse 2, and why?
Last week my friend Rachel said, “I am beginning to welcome trials as friends for they really do help me grow if I have the right attitude. I don’t want idols in my life. I also realize the pruning may never stop, but that’s okay.”
C. Think about the last time you may have been pruned (or you may be going through it now.) Honestly, how do you see it and why? What do you think of my friend Rachel’s comment?
D. What do you learn about abiding from verses 4-5? What are some ways you truly can abide in Jesus? (Include insights from John 15:9-10.)
E. What do you learn about how Jesus is a friend, and also, what He longs for from us as His friends? (v. 12-17) If a verse quickens you, stop there, meditate, and share your thoughts here.
7. Read Song of Songs 2:13-17 (Challenge passage — do your best) Often today Song of Songs is applied only to earthly marriage, but it must also be applied to our relationship with our heavenly bridegroom.) Hudson Taylor, founder of China Inland Mission, comments on this passage, and I’ll paraphrase him at the end. But do your best before you read his interpretation — and apply this to you and Jesus.
A. What does the bridegroom ask of the bride in verse 13? What might this cost in your life?
B. Where is she, according to verse 14, and what does he want of her? What does this mean?
C. What enemy lurks if she does not respond to him and come higher with him according to verse 15?
D. What does she tell him to do according to verse 17?
Hudson Taylor, who knew what is was to take risks (google him and find out about his life) says that this time she refuses him (later she grows and goes higher). He writes: “How many foxes there are in our lives…disobedience to the voice in small things…and the fruitfulness of the vine is sacrificed! … She dismisses him to go to the mountain alone (verse 17) Poor foolish bride! She will find that the things that once satisfied her can satisfy her no longer. (Hudson Taylor, Intimacy with Jesus, Understanding the Song of Solomon OMF)
E. Comments on Taylor?
Choose one of these sermons — the first is 2.50 and is entitled I AM THE VINE —
“Click on the link, then click the arrow next to”‘format”, then click on “MP3 $2.50”, then click “Add to cart”, then click “checkout”. Follow the rest of the directions to download onto your computer.
The second free, and is on the fruit of the Spirit and covers some of the same principles
Click here: http://sermons2.redeemer.com/sermons/how-change
8. Share your notes from the sermon
9. What is your take-a-way for the week and why?